Ask Pete!

by Pete Schoeninger

Q: How deep of snow can I safely land my Bonanza in?

A: That depends on snow conditions. Snow can be powder, or wet heavy slop, or frozen on top, or other conditions. I have landed in powder snow 2-3 inches deep without a lot of problems, but after a day or two of melt/freeze, I would not think of doing so. Always best to inquire about runway conditions before landing on a runway in the winter. If there is snow on the runway, try and find out if anyone has recently used it, and if they reported braking conditions. Also, be cautious landing in drifting conditions, both for reduced visibility and snowdrifts.

Q: Is it legal to land on lakes in the winter?

A: Sometimes local – or even state – authorities will restrict or ban frozen lake landings. There may be an ordinance specifically addressing the issue, or a speed limit, which you would exceed landing or taking off. Check with local pilots, and be sure to walk the area you are going to land on if possible before proceeding. Ruts from snowmobiles or other vehicles could be a real problem for an airplane. Also, remember your brakes are nearly useless on ice, and beware of snowmobile drivers who want to race you on takeoff or landing. Winter fly-ins held on lakes can be fun, but caution should be exercised when landing, taking off and taxiing, again due to poor braking action, multiple movements on the runway and taxiways, and increased pedestrian traffic.

Q: I’ve read some incident reports about airplane accidents that the pilot attributed to engine failure, yet FAA maintenance personnel were unable to find a cause. Comments?

A: If the airplane has a carburetor (not fuel injected), I would bet the issue was carburetor ice. After a forced landing due to carburetor ice, the ice will melt if temps are ever above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Sort of the perfect crime! Or……it’s possible the pilot attempted an off-airport landing and when he ended up damaging the aircraft due to his poor judgment, he blamed it on engine problems.

Q: I have found an airplane that seems to be just what I am looking for (middle-aged Cessna 182), but it is 900 miles away. My mechanic wants two days pay and travel expenses to look at it and I don’t want to spend that much money on a pre-purchase inspection. The price is $10,000 less than any competitive airplane, so I am tempted to buy it immediately, anyhow. What do you think is my best course of action?

A: If that airplane is that much of a deal, someone will grab it right away. If it has been for sale for a while, the “locals” know something about it that you don’t. Surely, there are many 182s for sale closer to you. To pay your mechanic for a couple of days to travel and look at an airplane on your behalf, is cheap insurance. I recommend that no one buy an airplane without a mechanic of their choice looking at it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Schoeninger is an aviation consultant and aircraft appraiser who lives in Wisconsin. He is an experienced fixed base operator, aircraft salesman and airport manager. Email your questions about all things aviation to: For assistance with aircraft appraisals or fixed base operator and airport management consultation, call 262-533-3056. Any answers provided in this column are the opinion of the author and not necessarily this publication, or its editor, publisher, owners and affiliates.

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